Aside from the tattoo sleeves and profanity-laced speech, Renee DiDio is the granddaughter your Nana always wanted: Her A-line dress falls just below her pantyhosed knee, and her hair is carefully coiffed into a classic bob. Her scarlet lipstick matches her shoes, and her handbag has a crisp clasp from which, one imagines, she might daintily extract an embroidered handkerchief.
With the popularity of shows like Mad Men, Masters of Sex, and most recently Agent Carter, the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s aesthetic is seeing a renaissance in mainstream fashion, and DiDio’s look is one many women are increasingly eager to emulate. But while Banana Republic was mass-producing its 2013 line of Mad Men–inspired apparel, DiDio has been busily tapping into a niche market of women longing for the real deal.
DiDio, along with boudoir photographer Anna Patin, is the host of the fledgling Brooklyn Pin Up School, held each month at Lucy La Riot studio on Lorimer Street, which Patin owns. Here, New York women can learn to imitate the Pin Up image, from her Victory Rolled hair to her lacy garters and thigh-highs. Started in November, the school’s got its next class planned for March 15, and will feature hair and makeup tutorial as well as wardrobe tips. And all “graduates” of the course will be able to take part in a special photo shoot.
The owner of Williamsburg’s SlapBack vintage clothing store, DiDio provides the vintage garments and wardrobe tutorials for the school. “A lot of times I would get the girls in the store, and they would also say, ‘How do you do your hair?’ or ‘Your makeup is amazing, can you teach me how to do that?’ ” DiDio says. “The class is extremely hands-on. We give them the supplies, but then we teach them how to do the looks themselves.”
Patin brings to the venture the warmth, understanding, and gentle encouragement that she employs as a boudoir photographer. “I always loved the old-school illustrations,” says Patin, who first became interested in pin-up photography while working on a school project at Parsons the New School for Design.
“Pin-up is very kind to every body type, every ethnicity, every hair color. [The women] come in here and I give them this cat-eye and a red lip and everyone looks flawless. So it’s a good way to feel good about yourself and get all dolled up.”
While some women are looking to permanently shed their dungarees in favor of pencil skirts, most attend the class looking for a confidence boost, and to build a community of women with similar interests.
“I like that it’s women making women feel beautiful and comfortable,” Patin says. “It’s like when they used to draw the stockings on each other’s legs. Even just attaching thigh-highs, I tell people, like, it’s good to have a buddy. It’s a good way to share something with someone else who’s into the aesthetics.”
The success of the class is also a testament to the popularity of vintage clothing, as well as a renewed interest in domestic-goddess chic: Urban Outfitters sells aprons and ceramic cooking utensils to its Anthropologie customers. Female-dominated social networking sites like Pinterest allow women to compile garden ideas, kitchen remodeling dreams, and arts and crafts inspiration. Sewing and needlework, too, are seeing a resurgence among younger crowds.
“I definitely get a younger crowd here, most in their twenties,” Patin says. Like their grandmothers, young women seem to be craving the order and tidiness of domesticity. But, Patin and DiDio agree, young women today are more likely to buy their own cherry-red stand mixers, rather than await the largesse of generous relatives at wedding showers.
“We’ve had enough time to look back through this time period, and we’ve been able to pick out the good things from the bad things,” Patin says. “It’s about embracing your femininity, not for anyone else but for yourself.”
The next session of Brooklyn Pin Up School will be held on March 15.